A Vision in Art Deco
The property known as Mahratta includes one of the finest war time Art Deco mansions in Sydney and is made even more significant by its marvellous garden setting. The garden includes a tennis court, sunken rose garden, croquet lawn, garden walks and extensive open lawns.
In 1939 the property was purchased by the Caragabal Pastoral Co. Pty Limited, a company associated with the family of Mr T.A. Field. At that time the property was an established residence and included a substantial federation style house known as Mahratta.
Together with a brick garage and chauffer’s quarters, brick gardener’s cottage, tennis court pavilion and several small brick sheds the property was well attended. The landscaping at that time included open lawns, garden walks, as well as many substantial native trees and trees planted earlier in the century.
Mr Field decided to demolish the existing residence and build anew. He commissioned Mr Douglas S. Agnew, Architect, to prepare the designs. In 1941 the 2 storey face brick and tile roof mansion was completed. Being designed in the styles of Art Deco and Georgian Revival accounts for the theatrical charm and majesty of the house, no less exemplified than in the experience of the Entry and Main Hall with its curved, scagliola finished staircase curved walls and pilasters.
The house is an ordered arrangement of spaces to care for all of the needs of the day and night. From the entrance hall and stair extend the two wings.
The north wing contains the Kitchen, stores, staff area, Breakfast Room, Dining Room and Ballroom on the ground floor and staff sleeping quarters, sundecks and childrens bedrooms on the first floor. The west wing includes the Sunroom, Library and Formal Lounge on the ground floor and the Master Bedroom, Boudoir, Bathrooms and Sleepout together with two more bedrooms on the first floor.
Gardens of the original Federation Mansion have largely remained and were designed in a manner which left areas of original significant vegetation intact. Today we can stand as witnesses to the magnificent Eucalypt which features on the western edge of the property.
Master gardener Paul Sorenson was commissioned to complement the original garden and the new residence by redesigning parts of the garden with considerable success.
Possibly the most significant planting of the time included the cedars, now mature, planted close to the house, and together with some sixty different native and exotic species the gardens are a tranquill and abundant display of Natures magnificence. The Monkey Puzzle tree adjacent to the Fox Valley Road boundary was planted early this century and stands as a local landmark feature.
The major landscaping feature included in the design of the new mansion was the continuos brick fence with its magnificent gateways. The brick work of the fence and metal work of the gates match that of the main house, which with the red gravel drive enabled the Architect to create a beautifully unified setting which bring together all of the building elements.
In 1960 the property was purchased by the Bank of New South Wales (Westpac) for use as a staff training centre. To facilitate this change of use alterations were made to the residence in 1961. These included the enclosure of the Loggia off the Lounge, conversion of the Flower Room (off the Main Hall) for use as an additional cloakroom, adding a raised court along the north edge of the building addressing the Pompeian Court, upgrading the Boiler Room and converting the Master Bathroom into a common shower room.
This last mentioned conversion included demolishing the remarkable bath tub and its associated marble work. Unfortunately there were no photographs of the Master Bathroom taken before it was demolished although there is a drawing.
In 1964 major extensions were carried out comprising the new three storey wing to the west of the main house, and an additional bedroom was created by enclosing the former Sundeck on the first floor of the north wing. The extensions were designed by the same architect in a manner sensitive to the original house in scale, materials and details and are deserved of commendation, though the interiors are far less elaborate than those of the original house.
In 1989 the property was acquired by the School of Philosophy who currently use the property for evening lectures and residential seminars.